The words “milk punch” might be deceiving here. This isn’t a rich, creamy heavy drink like eggnog. Rather it’s a clarified milk punch, an English style of milk punch that David Wondrich, in his excellent book Punch, tells us dates back to 1711, in which you intentionally curdle the milk with citrus and through the strange magic that is science produce a clear and boozy elixir of the gods.
This is just the thing to make a big batch for a party or serve after a holiday meal–though it is light enough that it needn’t be restricted to winter. It’s a heady blend of lemons, oranges, pineapple, sugar, green tea, baking spices, brandy, rum, and a splash of delightfully funky Batavia Arrack.
The fruit, sugar, tea, spices, and spirits get mixed together with some boiling water to dissolve the sugar. Then the mixture gets added to a few cups of whole milk where you might fear, upon seeing the curdled mess, that things have gone horribly wrong. But fear not. This is what you want. Then you can strain everything through a fine mesh sieve or chinois lined with a coffee filter or cheese cloth and the nest of curds do their magic and you get a mostly clear liquid with a few cloudy solids that you pass through the strainer one more time when it will be a pale yellow and totally clear (if a little bit of sediment remains you can strain it a third time).
It’s sweet and citrusy and ever so silky. It doesn’t look creamy or heavy, but it feels rounder and softer and fuller and smoother than the punch would without the milk clarification. I like it served over ice as an after dinner drink. With a splash of seltzer or dry sparkling wine it also makes a nice aperitif. It keeps well, which means you can make it ahead of time for entertaining or give it as a gift to someone you like. (Your enemies don’t deserve anything this good.)
Clarified English Milk Punch
Clarified milk punch is different from more common creamy milk drinks like eggnog. This is an English milk punch where the milk is curdled with citrus and strained to make a clear drink with a silky mouthfeel. I like to use a mix of rums here–a white rum, an aged dark rum, and a bit of Smith & Cross–but you can use a white rum or an aged dark rum for all of the rums in this recipe (Smith & Cross is too assertive to use on its own here). Don’t break the bank on a cognac for this. And note that the Batavia Arrack is significantly mellowed in the clarification process. This is a drink that goes down easy. Please use whole milk here. Alternative milks won’t produce the same results.
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- 1 orange, zest and juice
- 1/2 pineapple peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 whole cloves
- 10 coriander seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 cup brewed green tea
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup cognac
- 1/2 cup white rum
- 1/2 cup aged dark rum
- 1/2 cup Smith & Cross
- 1/3 cup Batavia Arrack
- 2 cups whole milk
Add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, pineapple, sugar, and spices to a large mixing bowl (one with a spout is ideal) and muddle the sugar and fruit together. Add the green tea and boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the spirits and mix together.
In a separate large mixing bowl, add the whole milk. Then pour the punch mixture into the milk and stir. The mixture will curdle. Let sit for about 30 minutes and strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter or cheese cloth. There will still be some cloudy solids after the first straining. Pass the mixture through the same lined sieve again (the curds do much of the straining work). At this point it should be almost entirely clear. If any cloudy bits remain, strain one more time. Transfer to bottles or jars and store in the refrigerator.
Pour about 1/2 cup into a glass with ice. You can garnish with a lemon peel or a grating of fresh nutmeg if you like.
Keeps refrigerated for months.